As I Lay Dying (Blu-ray) (2013)
|Year Of Production||2013|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||James Franco|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||No|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
James Franco, Renaissance Man, is nothing if not ambitious.
William Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying in 1930, allegedly working between midnight and 4 AM, after finishing work at the steel foundry. Legend has it that he barely changed the words from draft to completed novel. It has routinely been considered amongst the top 100 American novels and has held a place in the hearts of literary critics for the past 70 years. Unlike most of the other Great American Novels it has remained unfilmed, until now.
The fact that no filmmaker has felt courageous enough to tackle it until now amounts to due recognition of the difficulties of adapting this text for the screen. For starters it consists of 59 chapters each told from the perspective of one of roughly 15 characters. The characters are largely uneducated farmers speaking in their particular vernacular and yet the book contains passages of intense literate prose where there inner voice comes to the fore. Perhaps as much as anything it is a relentlessly downbeat tale. It begins with death and things don't get any better from there.
James Franco has shown that he is unafraid of challenges. In the very brief featurette which accompanies this Blu-ray release he explains that the novel was given to him by his father and he was told that he simply must read it. It has remained important to him since that time. Aside from directing the film Franco also co-scripted the adaptation and appears as a lead character. Devoted fans of the novel probably regard it as unfilmable and this adaptation may not change their mind. Nevertheless it is not without its power and whilst the success of the adaptation is not complete it is nevertheless a bold and interesting endeavour - though not for the fainthearted.
The indifferent critical response given to this film hasn't diminished his enthusiasm for the literary and alt-literary. He is filming an adaptation of another Faulkner classic, The Sound and the Fury, as well as filming the life of alcoholic beat novelist Charles Bukowski.
As I Lay Dying is the story of the Mississippi Bundren family, a dirt poor group of farmers in the early part of last century. At the head is Anse (Tim Blake Nelson), a difficult man who has eked out a living in this harsh American South. He is at times almost incomprehensible with barely any remains of his teeth in his head. The family are a motley crew consisting of older son Cash (Jim Parrack from True Blood)a talented carpenter, Darl (Franco) the most intelligent of the family, Jewel (Logan Marshall-Green) born of an illegitimate liaison with the local minister and Vardaman, a young boy. He also has a daughter Dewey Dell (Ahna O'Reilly). When his wife Addie dies Anse decides to, at whatever cost, respect her dying wish that she be buried in far away Jefferson.
Well I say "far away" but the truth is that the town is not that distant. It just takes forever for the family to get to the town in their old wagon with tired horses.
So begins a tortuous journey for this poor family. An injury cripples one of the family members which isn't helped by their attempts at backwards medicine. Anse sells Jewel's only possession, a horse he got for working long hours for another farmer, to buy some mules to cart his wife's coffin across hill and dale. Flooded rivers, family disputes and life-threatening situations are all played out on the road with the swiftly decaying body of Addie a grim reminder that perhaps everything this family touches is ultimately doomed.
As said, it is a bleak work. The family is spectacularly non-communicative and it is a challenge to follow their emotions. It feels like another world, long lost and the moment when the family enter a town and an automobile drives past is shocking.
Franco infuses the film with a feverish quality replicating the stream of consciousness which is at its core and uses a technique pinched from reality television (the confessional) for the characters to speak in their elevated dialogue, expressing their sometimes heartbreaking inner thoughts. Technique wise he also presents much of the movie in split screen conveying the sense of constant action in what is otherwise fairly much inert plot.
As I Lay Dying is no doubt a niche work. It is bleak and challenging at the best of times those with an interest in American literature or even those who wish to watch something just that little bit different will find this to be an intriguing work. The closest comparison is perhaps a film like Meeks Crossing.
As I Lay Dying comes to Blu-ray in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio consistent with the original cinema presentation.
This is a deliberately low-key presentation. The colours are mostly dull with the costuming reflecting the limited materials available in the world of the poverty stricken farmer. This is the same world as The Grapes of Wrath without the dignity. Greens predominated from the countryside. The colours are clear.
This is a decent presentation. It was filmed on high-definition digital video.
The flesh tones are accurate. There is a pleasing clarity to the film.
There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired which give a good account of on-screen action.
As I Lay Dying carries with it an English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track.
There are no technical defects with the sound.
The dialogue is rendered clearly by the sound transfer although it must be said that the strong use of accents and Anse's lack of teeth combine to make this a film that is easier to watch with the subtitles on.
The surround effects are fairly subtle but noticeable at times. The subwoofer does not really make its presence felt.
Music is by Tim O'Keefe and consists of some plaintive and discordant string and piano notes.
|Surround Channel Use|
There is only one extra being a short making of featurette. In at James Franco, some key cast members and the producer talk about the origins of the film and their strongly held belief that it should be true to the novel in every way possible.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
There is no Region A release. The other Region B release share the specifications. Buy local.
As I Lay Dying is a particular experience. Those expecting a typical James Franco film will get a big shock (perhaps the same as those expecting a typical James Franco film with Spring Breakers). It is really a relentless and often cruel experience with a family taken to the edge by a quest none of them fully understands.
The Blu-ray is of good quality in sound and vision terms.
|DVD||Cambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output|
|Display||Sony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Pioneer SC-LX 81 7.1|
|Speakers||Aaron ATS-5 7.1|